STATE: Elon Poll finds vaccinated in N.C. overwhelmingly support booster shots

Published 3:04 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

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The most recent survey by the Elon University Poll conducted Oct. 15-17 found that optimism about the pandemic is lower heading into winter than it was this spring, as well as mixed support among N.C. adults for workplace vaccination mandates.
As the federal government moves toward making COVID-19 vaccine boosters available to a larger swath of the population, vaccinated North Carolina residents overwhelmingly say they are in favor of taking another shot, the Elon University Poll has found. A survey conducted Oct. 15-17 found that 92 percent of those who received the vaccine say they are glad they did, with 65 percent saying they have already received a booster or will take a booster shot once available. Another 25 percent said “maybe” when asked if they would get a booster once they can.

“North Carolinians who have been vaccinated continue to report very high satisfaction with the experience,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon University Poll and associate professor of political science. “This is carrying over to vaccinated North Carolinians’ intention to get a booster shot. We’re finding far less hesitancy for boosters among those already vaccinated than we’ve measured over the last year in the general population That said, our findings suggest that younger North Carolinians are less eager about boosters compared to older residents.”

However, there has been little movement within the population as government and public health officials push for a larger segment of the population to get vaccinated. About 20 percent of N.C. adults say they have not been vaccinated and it’s unlikely they will get vaccinated, the survey found. The size of that segment of the population is similar to what the Elon Poll found in three previous surveys stretching back to December 2020.

The survey also explored attitudes about requiring vaccinations for employees and students, finding mixed support for such measures. Additionally, the poll found that optimism about how life during the pandemic will look months from now has waned since this spring when vaccines became more available to the general public, case counts and deaths had dropped and the Delta variant of the virus had yet to take hold.

Finally, the survey gauged the opinions of N.C. adults about how their elected leaders are addressing the pandemic, with President Joe Biden receiving marks similar to those given to former President Donald Trump by residents of the state in June 2020. Opinions about how N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper is handling the pandemic have remained steady, with most residents giving the governor a “B” or “C.”

The survey of 1,234 N.C. residents was conducted Oct. 15-17 using an online opt-in sample marketplace. The survey has a credibility interval of +/- 3 percent. The credibility interval is an accuracy measure for opt-in online surveys. A fuller explanation of the credibility interval and the survey methodology are available in the full report. The survey also included a battery of questions about the state of housing in North Carolina that will be released at a later date.

The survey was conducted by the Elon Poll in partnership with The Raleigh News & Observer, Charlotte Observer and The Durham Herald Sun.

Vaccination mandates

Workplace vaccination mandates have been a tool more recently deployed to try to increase vaccination rates in North Carolina and the country. Many hospital systems and some employers in North Carolina have begun requiring their employees to either get vaccinated or obtain a medical or religious waiver. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more workers to require vaccines or test all employees weekly.

Among North Carolina adults, 60 percent are in favor of such a requirement by OSHA while 40 percent disapprove of such requirements for large employers. That is similar to the level of support for self-imposed mandates by employers. Sixty-four percent of adults in the state support hospitals requiring medical workers to be vaccinated and 56 percent approve of private employers requiring vaccinations.

Similar results were found when respondents were asked about requiring students to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Fifty-nine percent approve of universities requiring students to be vaccinated and 55 percent approve of K-12 schools requiring students to be vaccinated.

Looking more closely at opinions about the impending OSHA rule, the implementation of such a measure by the Biden administration enjoys much higher support from Democrats (83 percent approve) compared to Republicans (41 percent approve). The measure also has more support from Black residents (74 percent approve) and residents of other races (68 percent approve) than White residents (54 percent approve). There was little variation in responses between men and women, and the measure enjoyed slightly more support among urban residents than those who live in suburban and rural areas.

Optimism wanes

In this survey, the Elon Poll asked respondents to look ahead to the holiday season to gauge their opinions about the state of the pandemic. The question was similar to one asked by the poll in April, which found then that 70 percent of N.C. adults believed that life in the state would be a little or a lot better by July 4 than it was in April.

In this survey, the Elon Poll found that a smaller portion — just 40 percent — believe that life will be a little or a lot better by Christmas. The poll found this month that 42 percent of N.C. adults believe life will be “about the same way that it is now.” When asked in April to look ahead to the July 4 holiday, 22 percent of respondents said life would be about the same by then.

“The Delta variant wave of cases seems to have stemmed much of the optimism we measured in early summer with more than half of residents not anticipating any improvement in life in terms of the pandemic between now and Christmas,” Husser said. “I suspect this mood will improve if cases continue to decline and vaccines become available to children under 12.”

Similar to both surveys was the portion of the population who thinks that life will be back to the way it was before the pandemic within a few months. In April, 8 percent held that view and now, 7 percent anticipate such a return to normalcy.

Grading the leaders

The Elon Poll had repeatedly asked N.C. residents to assign a letter grade to how the governor and president are handling the pandemic. This survey found that a third of N.C. adults give President Biden an “F” for how he has handled the response to the coronavirus crisis, making it the most popular answer. Fifteen percent gave Biden an “A,” 23 percent gave the president a “B,” 19 percent gave him a “C” and 11 percent gave him a “D.”

Those numbers are similar to the ones President Trump received in June 2020 when the Elon Poll asked the question. At that time, 39 percent of N.C. adults gave Trump an “F,” with 16 percent giving him an “A,” 20 percent giving him a “B,” 13 percent giving him a “C” and 12 percent giving him a “D.”

“Governor Cooper’s grades on handling the pandemic have been remarkably stable despite the level of cases fluctuating widely over time,” Husser said. “Though Cooper’s grade point average might seem less than stellar, his numbers remain about where they were in October 2020, right before he outperformed his party statewide to win a gubernatorial election that centered on his COVID-19 policies.”

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper has consistently received fair to good marks from his constituents on how he has handled the pandemic. In June 2020, October 2020 and now, most residents have given him a “B” or “C.” In this survey, 17 percent gave Cooper an “A” and an equal portion gave him an “F.”

The Elon Poll asked residents to weigh in on the rules and regulations the state has put into place to combat the pandemic and found that 38 percent believe they are “about right” while 38 percent believe they should be more restrictive and 25 percent believe they are too restrictive. Generally speaking, younger residents were the most polarized, with 43 percent of those 18 to 24 years old saying that the rules were not restrictive enough, 28 percent saying they were too restrictive and 29 percent saying they were “about right.” Black residents and residents of other races were more likely to say the rules and regulations were not restrictive enough, as were female residents.